Who Could You Forgive Today?

Written on December 27, 2013 at 9:00 am , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ago, I found myself carefully counting my dog-eared dollars and placing them into a clearly disinterested clerk’s hands to pay for one package of hot dogs and buns. As I glanced at the towels in the backseat of my old Chevy, I excitedly thought how much fun this afternoon would be. First, we’d go swimming at my neighborhood pool. Then we’d grill lunch. Great plan, one problem: The two young brothers I’d arranged to take out of the city and into the country for the day never showed up at our agreed-upon pickup place. Calls from a nearby telephone booth went unanswered. I waited for an hour and a half, then dejectedly drove home.

I was so disappointed.

As I racked my brain to understand what happened, my sadness turned to anger. How dare they blow me off? Their disappearing act turned personal. All I could think of was confronting them.

Then something happened: I forgave them. A conscious mind-set of forgiveness slipped in and took over. Actually, it started with forgiving myself. Instead of blaming them and myself, I let it go.

While forgiveness is a powerful individual act, it can also lead a community to a deeper level of awareness. The recent death of Nelson Mandela and the dialogue that followed about his decision to leave behind the pain of 27 years of suffering in prison began with one word: forgiveness. “I had given [them] enough…I couldn’t give them my mind and my heart,” he said. Mandela used his personal convictions to lead a divided nation to truth and reconciliation.

Teaching our children to forgive may be one of the best lessons we can give them. Instead of fostering destructive competitive practices, think about the power of forgiveness. As an alternative to time-outs and harsh disciplinary words or actions, perhaps we should teach our children about expressing empathy—feeling what others are feeling. Maybe we can educate them on the art of offering an apology and accepting one with a sincere “I forgive you.”

We often hold on to old pain and negativity like an invisible shield to protect us from future hurts. What we don’t understand is that our power doesn’t emerge from the past. It comes from the ability to be fully present and say, “It really is okay. I forgive you.”

Is there someone—even yourself—you could forgive today? Post a comment below and tell me who it is.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

2 Responses to “Who Could You Forgive Today?”

  1. For years I couldn’t forget/forgive a serious wrong that I allowed to stay in my mind, in my heart. It hurt only me. It effected my career, my social life.
    I hope and pray that I can and will forgive this person. “the ability to be fully present and say, “It really is okay. I forgive you” If I can do this I know it will make my life, make me a better more interesting person..

  2. I have been trying to forgive an ex-son-in-law and his new wife. They have denied us (grandmother & grandfather) any contact with out grandchildren who are 12 and 10. It has been almost 2 years since we have seen or even talked to them. We went to court to obtain grandparent visitation – it was denied – however, the judge told the son-in-law to find it in his heart to let us see our grandchildren (that was over a year ago). This all stems from our daughters drug addiction and legal issues and the lifestyle she has chosen – much to our dismay. I don’t understand why we are being punished for her behavior.
    I continue to pray that I can forgive them. I know God will bring these “wee ones” physically back into our lives. I’ll keep on praying :-)